Rochester, MN- For the second-straight night Eau Claire’s offense was held to just three hits, as the Express (9-14) fell 5-2 on the third night of a four-game series with the Rochester Honkers (12-12).
Eau Claire starting pitcher Luke Eldred (0-1) failed to reach the sixth inning in an outing for the first time this season Friday night after crossing that plateau in each of his two appearances this season. The Dallas Baptist freshman was hammered for five runs on six hits over the first two innings of play before being relieved in the fifth.
Trailing 2-0 in the second, Eldred surrendered his first long ball of the season on a solo shot courtesy of Rochester’s Chris Ceballos. Just three batters later, Honkers outfielder Mike Echavia connected two-run bomb off of Eldred to put Rochester up 5-0, and effectively finish Eldred’s night on the bump.
On the bright side for the Express pitching staff was reliever Jack Wolger (1-0), whom tossed four brilliant shutout innings after taking over for Eldred, striking out five while giving up just one hit. Wolger, one of two lefties currently stationed in Eau Claire’s bullpen, put his ability to handle hitters of either handedness on display Friday night. Auditioning himself as a potentially valuable asset for Express manager Dale Varsho to call upon when playing with lefty-righty matchups as the year goes on.
Similar to Thursday’s 6-1 loss to Rochester the Eau Claire bats struggled to put numbers on the board, mustering two runs on three hits. Although they were able to push across one more run in this one, the Express were unable to take advantage of the seven bases-on-balls issued by Honkers starter Hunter Sullivan (3-0), allowing the southpaw to duck out of trouble on severall occasions.
Eau Claire’s Ty Greene was one of the lone bright spots in a lineup that combined to go 3-28 with three singles, as he reached base three times on two hits and walk. Greene, a catcher, also swiped second base twice to bring his seasonal stolen base total up to five.
The Express will return home tomorrow at 6:35 PM, playing in their final contest with Rochester at Carson Park this year. Drew Gillespie is scheduled to make his second start of the season for Eau Claire, as Express fans will get another look at the New Mexico right-hander after watching him fan six Honkers batters over five innings of relief in a victory over Rochester earlier this month.
The Eau Claire Express are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The 23-year-old summer collegiate league is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 20 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 170 former Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champion Ben Zobrist (CHC) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (BOS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM) and Lucas Duda (NYM). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit www.eauclaireexpress.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Express as your favorite team.